John Smit says there will be no mental lapse when the Springboks strive for a consistent showing at Loftus Versfeld.
The 26-21 scoreline at King’s Park flattered the British & Irish Lions. The Boks’ physical dominance was rewarded with a 26-7 lead until a loss of concentration by coaches and players allowed the tourists to claw their way back.
The Boks scraped through, but the skipper said the team had learned an important lesson. They go into this Saturday’s game 1-0 to the good, but that doesn’t mean they won’t look to improve.
‘Last Saturday really was a game of two halves, and we are all cognisant of the fact that it was a very tight Test. We lost concentration when we should of closed out the game, and that is something we want to change. We want to finish off the series at Loftus.
‘They are going to be fighting to survive while we are looking to win the series. It does spice up the second game, but we are focusing on what we have to do as a team.’
Smit said a number of factors contributed to the Boks’ second-half slump in Durban. The team’s lack of game time was a big reason, as was the enormity of the occasion.
With a win, albeit an ugly one, and 80 minutes of game time in the bank, the Bok captain is expecting a more clinical showing in Pretoria.
‘The result was satisfying, but we would be naive to think a similar performance would get the job done this week. There are a lot of areas we’d like to tidy up.
‘The first Lions’ game was everything I expected and more. It certainly lived up to the hype. When you run out to King’s Park and you see all the red jerseys and hear the chants, and see all the South African flags, you realise you are part of something special.
‘A lot of guys were swept up by emotion, and I’m sure now that the first Test is done with we will be a lot more calm and composed. Having had that 80 minutes together would have helped us a tremendous deal, and the performance in the last 15 minutes will have reminded us to stay alert.
‘There were mistakes, but you can’t point fingers at individuals. It’s often the case of the team not sticking to the structure.’
While the defence wasn’t always solid due to the poor organisation and lack of synergy, the Bok scrum dominated their Lions counterparts. This is one area where the Boks performed as a unit.
Smit said he was happy to be concentrating on tighthead with Chiliboy Ralepelle now the official cover for Bismarck du Plessis at hooker. He also said the Boks are expecting a Lions’ backlash at the set-piece whether Phil Vickery is retained at tighthead or not.
Vickery has come in for plenty of criticism since he was mauled by Beast Mtawarira at last week’s scrum.
‘Phil’s proven time and again he can bounce back,’ Smit said. ‘I did see him after the game and we swapped jumpers, we didn’t really talk about the game but rather when we would be getting together for our next beer.
‘You can’t always attack the individual, as it’s a team effort. I know Phil’s strong enough and I’m sure he still has a few good seasons left in him.’
By Jon Cardinelli, in Johannesburg